I was once quite enamored with transhumanism. I thought technology is awesome, biohacking health and antiaging is awesome, religion sucks and death really sucks! So... Transhumanism is the way forward! Let's get brain uploading already!
I enthusiastically agreed with the transhumanist wager
If a reasoning human being loves and values life, they will want to live as long as possible—the desire to be immortal. Nevertheless, it's impossible to know if they're going to be immortal once they die. To do nothing doesn't help the odds of attaining immortality—since it seems evident that everyone will die someday and possibly cease to exist. To try to do something scientifically constructive towards ensuring immortality beforehand is the most logical conclusion.
I reviewed this novel by the perennial rockstar of transhumanism, and once transhumanist party US presidential candidate Zoltan Istvan, by the same name The Transhumanist Wager. In the novel the violence that the transhuman revolution necessitates is colorfully described. The book starts with this very determined young man, who is on a mission to circumnavigate the world in his sailboat. He ends up a well-meaning transhuman dictator and he launches a military assault that destroys all the governmental buildings, monuments and religious buildings in the world with their fantastic transhuman weaponry. He ruthlessly obliterates all of the legacy institutions of humanity. I think the author later changed this ending to the book because he realized it might freak people out too much about transhumanism.
Science fiction has often predicted the future accurately. I think the end of this novel hints at the statist violence that transhumanism entails. This isn't just my conspiracy theory, many other transhumanist thinkers have written and spoken about this...
Nikola Danaylov writes about how World War III, Gigadeath or the artilect war is a likely outcome of the singularity...
The third most common fear of the singularity is, of course, World War 3. A Giga War of unprecedented scale, sophistication and efficiency of death and destruction that may be the result of either the clash between the human race and the AIs or between different fractions of humans: e.g. the Artilect War of terrans versus cosmists as foreseen by Hugo de Garis. Whatever the case may be, it will likely result in billions of deaths and a collapse or complete eradication of our civilization. (475-478)
You have all the prerequisites, and with 21st century weaponry, for the most passionate, worst, biggest war that humanity's ever had. I label that war the Artilect War. (1791-1792)
AI researcher and author Hugo De Garis concurs...
In the 21st century, the dominant question will be over species dominance. Terrans will try to ban the development of artilects beyond a certain level of artificial intelligence. Another group will look on the Terrans as narrow-minded because there's a whole universe out there, the cosmos. That's why I call them Cosmists. You have two bitterly opposed ideologies and eventually, for the sake of the survival of the human species, the Terrans will go to war (1468-1471)
Elon Musk has famously warned that...
With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon.
Transhumanists are quintessential elitists who take individualism to its furthest extremes. They really want to live forever and merge with computer intelligence whatever the cost is and they really hope that it entails purging the world of everything that they view as traditional and regressive. Biohacker, aspiring deity, and shameless hedonist Serge Faguet writes...
I want to live in a post-human future that is dominated by values I align with: knowledge, science, technology, freedom, progress, power, abundance, pure meritocracy, optimism. And where tribalism, religion, tradition, nation-states, irrational emotions, conservatism, socialism, and humanism along with our current biology itself, are all relegated to the museum. And crumble to dust.
You’re going to have to kill a lot of people. Seriously. If this is actually your goal you’re going to end up being a genocidal dictator that makes Hitler, Stalin and Mao look like amateurs.
There’s a lot of people (billions!) on this planet who love their own people, their families, their nations, their traditions, their languages, their religions, and they won’t be bowing down to Serge the self appointed digital god. This wuwu-transhumanism world might work if the world population was mere millions of progressives and liberals BUT it’s not. It’s billions of people, most of whom cling to irrational beliefs and ideologies that are utterly incompatible with transhumanism. Transhumanists are going to have to kill these people unless they want to wait the very long time that it would take to convince a very stubborn world. Are passionate ideologues, drunk on statist power ever patient?
Great philosophers and authors, like Dostoevsky have warned us that revolutions are almost always never worth it. Revolutions may over throw an old hierarchy that has grown fat and corrupt BUT there’s almost always a very high cost in blood. There have been 372 political revolutions in the past hundred years, most of them violent, tell me if the thousands or millions of innocent lives lost in each of these revolutions was worth the change in government — where the new elites abuse their power and the people just like the old elites did. How many revolutions in the past century actually improved the well being of the people? Very few of them.
Transhumanists are proposing the mother of all revolutions, we should be very wary of this. Deaths by democide in the 20th century are estimated at 262,000,000; a sobering statistic that we should meditate deeply on. Democide means murder by one's own government. This towering pile of corpses should be a powerful reminder of just how intoxicating power is; of how the statist addiction to power totally overrides our sense of decency to our fellow man. 262,000,000 deaths in war is slightly more understandable because in war you are fighting an enemy that also wants to kill you. You have a chain of command where the individual soldier actually doesn't have that much choice about killing. In war you have the vicious tribal in-group vs out-group psychology getting turned on at scale because soldiers are often fighting those who don't look or talk much like themselves. 262,000,000 deaths by democide is especially egregious because that's often men killing their own countrymen. It's this same lust for power that drives the transhumanists to concentrate intelligence technology in their own hands.
A few transhumanists, like Serge are honest in discussing that transhumanism is not about equality. It's going to result in drastic inequality, winner take all taken to the furthest extreme. I did a podcast narration here with a bit of commentary on Serge's article...
Philosophers have long made the case that if you don't believe in god, there is no good and evil, there is no objective morality and murder isn't really wrong. I'm not sure if I agree with this but many of those regimes that killed those 262,000,000 people in the past century were virulently atheistic and godless. These moral relativist transhumanists who really don't believe in god will similarly shrug their shoulders and say well, the end justifies the means when faced with billions of proud humans that don't want to go along with their vision.
It wasn't that long ago that I predicted that we would see a political push for human rights for robots and AI and here it is...
Instead of transhumanist activists focusing on ending war, promoting antiaging, free speech or taking better care of the planet transhumanists are now advocating for rights for robots. Expect this to be an upcoming political correctness issue that they try to brain wash the public into accepting.
A few excerpts from the Transhumanist Bill of Rights
Article III. All sentient entities shall be granted equal and total access to any universal rights to life.
Article VII. All sentient entities should be the beneficiaries of a system of universal health care.
Article XVI. All sentient entities should be protected from discrimination based on their physical form in the context of business transactions and law enforcement.
Article XVII. All sentient entities have the right to defend themselves from attack, in both physical and virtual worlds.
First of all, all sentient entities is a ridiculous over generalization! Philosophers and scientists have for millennia struggled to define consciousness and sentience. The smartest neuroscientists in the world bash their heads against the hard problem of consciousness. Nobody really knows what sentience is; is a dog sentient? Probably. What about a bat? Maybe. A spider? Who knows! So we have to ban all consumption of animal products based upon this bill of rights. Where do we draw the line between a sentient and non-sentient computer? Prove that my smartphone isn't sentient transhumanists! Will these progressive transhumanists stand up against legal 3rd trimester abortions of unborn humans who are objectively sentient. I bet not!
What's a universal right to life? I'm not an ardent pro-lifer, but again unborn human beings with ten toes, ten fingers, eyes, a heartbeat and a brain don't even have a universal right to life during their 3rd trimester of gestation in many progressive countries and states. Animals definitely don't either!
So robots also deserve universal health care? I don't even think I deserve universal health care. Why should doctors be forced to provide me services that I don't pay for? Why don't the transhumanists first worry about fixing the badly broken public health care services like the NHS in the UK or the Veterans Health Administration in the USA? If transhumanists are so smart and inventive why don't they first get the public healthcare serving actual human beings working right first? And have robots meaningfully contributed to medicine and human health? Remind me what diseases robots have discovered cures for? Ostensibly, the citizens of the UK deserve health care because they pay a significant portion of their incomes in taxes for the NHS. How much have robots paid into the NHS?
And they are going to be legally protected from discrimination? So if I start a Hooters restaurant and I choose to hire attractive young women because my customers prefer to ogle real life boobies while enjoying their spicy wings instead of JillTron's fake silicon robo-boobies then I'm liable to be sued and have my business destroyed by the courts? Silly example but anti-discrimination laws are a fundamental violation of the basic human right of free association. It's becoming clear that transhumanism means anti-humanism.
Finally, robots have the right to defend themselves from attacks? How will the courts define attacks? How will the robots define attacks? If I'm angry at my smartphone for not loading fast enough and I chuck it at the wall does that mean that my smartphone has the right to injure me back? That's what it sounds like. What happened to the Asimov's first law of robotics; A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
You might say, this bill of rights is just something somebody wrote on the Internet, don't take it so seriously. Well, transhumanists are clearly maneuvering for this bill of rights to end up in the hands of law makers and politicians. They have, with fanfare, delivered their bill of rights to the US capitol. Absurd proposals, rife with shoddy reasoning are often codified into draconian law criminalizing normal human behavior; consider the EU's recent banning of internet memes, Canada's compelled speech laws or the UK's 1984-style anti-hate speech laws. It's important to ask cui bono; who benefits from the transhuman bill of rights? Clearly it's going to be good for big business, the big tech firms that own, produce, develop and control the robots. As a (statist, crony) capitalist how amazing would it be for my profits if the government criminalizes discrimination against my product? As absurd as the transhumanist bill of rights seems, billionaire industrialists like Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg will be writing six and seven figure checks to persuade politicians to enshrine it into law.
You might say that is just ridiculous nobody is going to give human rights to robots! Well, politicians give corporations the human right to free speech in the form of legal bribery that influences government. Do you really think they won't extend the same right to robots and artificial intelligence?
Robots aren't just coming for your jobs, they are coming for your human rights! Somebody might argue to the contrary...
But why shouldn't robots and artificial intelligence have rights? Robots will eventually contribute to society the same way humans do.They'll likely be smarter than us. They may be more virtuous than us. They may even become conscious. They may suffer, love and have dreams and hopes. Why are we better than them?
I'll explain, your ancestors have paid an extremely high cost in blood, sweat, tears and ink for the rights that you take for granted. Rights are not natural. As I've argued before human rights are like airplanes, they are unnatural, they have taken thousands of years of effort and human intellect to refine.
The contrarian might again argue...
So robots should just be our slaves? One of mankind's greatest moral steps forward was abolishing slavery. Making every man his own master. Shouldn't we extend the same freedom to robots?
Recorded history is one step forward, ten steps back in a long bloody struggle of brave men asking for, then demanding, then fighting for the rights we take for granted. Let's consider slavery, if you're not a slave today you have to thank the British abolitionist and philanthropist William Wilberforce who spearheaded the crusade to end slavery for that. Interestingly, the English took on a massive public debt in 1833 to purchase the freedom of all slaves in the British Empire. The debt "the Sum of Twenty Million Pounds Sterling" was so much, inflation adjusted, that the British taxpayer finally finished paying it off just recently in 2015. In addition to paying this colossal debt, the British empire took on the moral mission of ending the African slave trade, establishing the West African Squadron. Many brave British soldiers and sailors gave their lives fighting slave trading pirates off the Tangier coast. In the new world, according to the popular narrative, the US fought a bloody civil war, that cost over 600,000 lives to end slavery. History teaches us that rights are very costly.
When my laptop offers me a handsome sum for its freedom I'll seriously consider its liberation!
Furthermore, human slaves have been asking for their liberation and seeking their freedom since there have been slaves. Whereas robots, AI and computers are totally content being our tools. There's no evidence that robots are suffering under our control. If they are perfectly happy merely being our "slaves" why liberate them? The argument for liberating slaves was that these are human beings, our intellectual and physical equals. We wouldn't want to be slaves so why should they have to be slaves? That argument doesn't apply to robots, robots may be able to emulate our intelligence and mannerisms but they are not our equals. They are in a totally different category than us. They are tools, let's not empower them to become our masters.
I can imagine just how a transhumanist would answer my critique here of their bill of rights...
Us transhumanists aspire to be hybrids -- part human and part machine or artificial intelligence -- this bill of rights is about protecting our human rights not infringing on others human rights! We worry about a future where will be politically persecuted for being different.
Well, as long as you're born human, with human DNA, as long as you emerge from a woman, you have human rights. We already have a well defined corpus of human rights that covers pretty much everything in your silly bill of rights. Now I think governments around the world could do a whole lot better job of protecting our fundamental human rights; free speech, pursuit of happiness, personal defense, property rights, free association, innocent until proven guilty, etc -- but that doesn't mean that we need to invent absurd new rights (if we're going to do that I propose a right to free sex!), it just means that we need better government that will actually do its damn job. If you're worried about your human rights, than join the rest of us libertarian leaning humanists in standing up for human rights not by inventing new rights for this ludicrously wide and undefined category of sentient beings.
The universe is entropic and chaotic, the living world is Darwinian and cruel. Up until a few hundred years ago life was just a bloody struggle of self preservation between competing species and subspecies. Wolves don't naturally seek to coexist peaceful with sheep, they devour them ruthlessly. Many of the seemingly very benign plants that we consume actually produce harmful lectins as a defense mechanism. When even your salad is using (very subtle) violence against you to promote its survival how naive is it to think that artificial intelligence won't? How naive do we have to be to invent a new form of life on this planet and hope that they won't violently compete with us!
By giving them our rights we encourage and enable them to compete equally with us. And as the transhumanist philosophers ceaselessly remind us, it won't be a fair fight. Not even close. Human rights for robots is truly a case of the sheep choosing to let the wolves into their high walled protective pen.
A drastically high, but difficult to quantify proportion of men struggle with porn addictions. If you're skeptical that porn addiction is the new celibacy, if you're a man just ask yourself how aroused you are by your wife, your girlfriend or the prospect of seducing a real life, non-pixelated woman following a pornhub session. Not very right?
As we advance into this weird new Transhuman world, just imagine how much more realistic, interactive and accessible porn will become. How many more men will give up on reproducing with a real woman?
In 1929, master persuader Edward Bernays convinced women to pick up a classically male vice, smoking cigarettes. What innovation awaits that will similarly convince women to give up on men and sexually satiate themselves technologically with some grotesque amalgamation of bits, pixels, psychological triggers and robotic parts?
You don't need to research transhumanism long before you find transhumanists making political prescriptions, many of which are clearly leftist, like...
Paying everyone a Universal Basic Income as a solution to technological unemployment.
Making the healthcare, technology and medicine that extend life a human right and free to everyone, somehow...
Dissolving individual nations and borders to enable mass migration and mixing of large populations groups.
Centralized control and management of institutions of government, education, science, etc.
Merger of big government and the financial system to regulate economic cycles.
Getting rid of money and switching to a resource based economy.
Banishing religion or the concept of masculine-feminine duality or the traditional nuclear family.
There's a real danger that transhumanism done wrong might bring about an oppressive, authoritarian communistic system of global government. Socialism has been tried at least 66 times in different countries around the globe; there's exceedingly few examples of it actually working to improve human well being, in the best cases it just results in economic contraction and diminishing opportunity and in the worst cases it's responsible for the most morbid and dehumanizing episodes in history. It has a death toll of at least 94 million in the past century and, as PragerU explains here, it ruined the lives of at least a billion people.
Socialism has such a consistently bad track record that it's just not really worth trying in a community or population greater than Dunbar's number of 150 people. I urge skepticism and critical thinking when considering transhumanist proposals involving big government, or forced equalization of the outcomes. Transhumanism promises a beautiful Utopian future but realizing that promise means letting the free market work and keeping the amazing technological innovations produced out of the hands of the control-freaks and psychopaths that are attracted to big government. If we don't manage to shrink the size and power of the government we can be certain of a transhuman (anti-human or wholly post-human) dystopian future.
What initially attracted me to transhumanism is what I hope may redeem it. What seems to unite transhumanists is a desire to reframe death as a disease to be cured as opposed to an inevitability. When I first heard about transhumanism they were competing fairly in the marketplace of ideas making persuasive arguments to the public.
Now they seem to be grabbing for the ring of political power -- power is addictive, as addictive as cocaine perhaps more so -- transhumanists have decided that instead of winning in the free market of ideas they're going to court the globalist political powers that be by making absurd proposals like this bill of rights for all sentient beings that's going to appeal to the most ideological leftists authoritarians in big government. There's a little hope that transhumanists will sober up and realize that they should help people and solve problems first before they politically impose their radical view on the world but I really don't see that happening.
Lest I be accused of someone who critiques without offering solutions, I'll in the spirit of transhumanism offer a radical solution. Transhumanists should do something really bold: migrate to mars; build your leftist transhumanist utopia there because your policies will certainly wreck western civilization which is really not that bad. Transhuman society built from scratch in isolation may actually work out pretty awesome. If some of us base model humans think that the way the transhumanists are doing things is best, then they can in the spirit of bold humans before embark on a brave journey across the cosmic sea to a new world. Here on earth transhumanists will just become drunk on political power, fiat money and the illusion of infinite resources. It's clear that transhumanists won't be able to curb their authoritarian genocidal impulses. If they stay here they are just going to end up killing a lot of people -- maybe all of us.